It was a relatively chill night in my emergency department when I figured out the next chapter of my life. I had a few minutes to peruse the internet between patients. I randomly typed in “Penn master’s degrees.” (My method of finding a master’s program was precise – type in a school’s name and look around until something piqued my interest, then move on to the next school that popped into my head). I skimmed Penn’s extensive list of masters until I got to the “h” section to look at the healthcare degrees offered. The Master of Health Care Innovation (MHCI) degree caught my eye. I knew I wanted to apply within 20 minutes of looking into the program. The program centers around a multidisciplinary curriculum with innovative thinkers and leaders passionate about improving healthcare. I knew this 20-month degree would launch the next chapter of my career.
Innovation and design thinking are the future of healthcare. They are the key to improving the quality of patient care, care delivery, and enhancing communities. As a result, innovation degrees are starting to pop up nationwide. I was part of the fourth graduating MHCI class at Penn in 2022. You may ask yourself, “Why should I get a master’s in healthcare innovation?” I am here to explain why you should choose Penn’s MHCI degree.
1. Your Cohort Will Be Rich With Interdisciplinary Diversity
After spending many years in the hospital setting, I wanted to diversify my network. My cohort was about 40 people made up of clinicians, executives, directors, researchers, entrepreneurs, and consultants from both the public and private sectors. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interact and learn from my peers in other industries.
With each assignment throughout the program, I was able to offer my perspective as a nurse and hear from other professionals about both the problem and the solution. If I learned anything from this program, it’s that you can’t innovate alone. You need a team because everyone has their own interpretation of the problem and how to fix it. Hearing other people’s experiences is invaluable. Every member of my cohort has their own story about what brought them to the MHCI and why they are passionate about improving health care. I reveled hearing these stories.
2. The Faculty and Curriculum are World-Renowned
One of the reasons I chose Penn was because of the subject matter curated by their world-class faculty. My first course, The American Healthcare System, was taught by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in August 2020. Joe Biden elected Dr. Emanuel to be a member of the Covid-19 Advisory Board. (He would occasionally be late to class because his meetings with the White House ran over. A very acceptable excuse to be late in my book.) He adapted our coursework to allow for lively discussions about the pandemic and how our complex healthcare system was ripe for opportunities to improve healthcare policy, financing, and delivery. We ended the course discussing how we can reform payment models, enhance quality improvement initiatives, and expand access to care.
What I loved most about my faculty was their passion for their subject matter. My favorite course was Health Care Operations, taught by the one and only Christian Terwiesch, Ph.D., a Wharton professor. His enthusiasm for the subject matter ultimately led me to my current COO role at The Nursing Beat since, through this class, I discovered my love for analyzing processes and improving flow.
My other favorite class included Behavioral Economics & Decision Making, taught by Kevin G. Volpp, MD, Ph.D. (think: what is the best way to incentivize people & patients to do things), healthcare law, and health equity.
The last five months of my program were spent working on a project I identified within my workplace and creating, then pitching, a solution. This project allowed me to be creative and felt relevant since it concerned my workplace. Overall the coursework and lectures were well-curated. The MHCI was also extremely open to feedback, so the program is constantly iterating and improving its coursework, given student feedback.
3. The Penn Network, Network, Network
I chose Penn over other schools because of its impressively deep network, which has proved invaluable since graduation. Not only am I a part of the robust Penn alumni network, but also the MHCI alumni network as well. I’ve found that alums are more than willing to elevate one another and foster the growth of other Penn alums.
I’ve been to a few Penn Alumni meet-ups within the Bay Area for networking. I’ve also joined the Bay Area Penn Founders Slack group. At a dinner hosted by the Penn Founders group, I networked with those in similar tech spaces.
After joining The Nursing Beat, I contacted Marion Leary, the Director of Innovation for Penn Nursing, to collaborate. She was more than willing to connect, and last week, I moderated a panel on nursing innovation on LinkedIn Live. The encouragement I’ve received from the MHCI program and alumni network of my endeavors at The Nursing Beat has been a wonderful feeling.
Every interaction I’ve had with Penn alums has been meaningful and extremely valuable; from business connections, career advice, and general social networking, I can’t recommend Penn enough.
4. The Penn MHCI Program Launched My Career Beyond the Bedside
After graduating, I felt I had the tools to take on the world. The diverse community I had created and what I learned in the courses allowed me to see the healthcare system differently. I feel capable of taking the healthcare world by storm after graduating.
While in my last quarter of the program, I was recruited to become the Chief Operating Officer of The Nursing Beat. I would have never been able to take on this job before getting my degree. The MHCI taught me how to think differently and lead a team; I learned the leadership skills needed to address challenges within the nursing community. I translated what I learned with the MHCI to building The Nursing Beat. I feel so fortunate that I was able to directly apply what I learned in my master’s to a job post-graduation.
5. Flexibility and That Personal Touch
One of the most impressive aspects of the program is how I felt so included despite it being an online program. The week before our first seminar, I received a package with instructions not to open it until the seminar started. The package contained a variety of chocolates for the program’s annual chocolate tasting with Dr. Emanuel, a chocolate connoisseur. This was such a unique way of kicking off our program that it got everyone relaxed and abated the “first day of school” jitters. Throughout the program, there was everything from virtual happy hours to a Slack channel for everyone to keep in touch. Graduation weekend was filled with an impressive lineup of activities for networking and socializing. The creativity of the program to create a community truly distinguishes itself.
The MHCI program was built for working professionals, and as a shift worker at the time, I was most grateful for the flexibility the program offered. Most of the coursework was asynchronous, and all the synchronous classes were recorded. I’m based on the west coast, but the MHCI administration took this into account, so my earliest class was at 9 am PST. Each class was small enough and well-curated by the faculty, so attending the synchronous sessions was a highlight of my week because of the lively discussions and debates my classmates and I would get into with our professors. Although my cohort and I were all remote, I felt like an integral part of my cohort during our lectures.
The MHCI program allowed me to break out of the bedside and took me on my next career path. The community is small but mighty and expanding with each cohort. Truthfully, my MHCI cohort and network feel like family. I know I can reach out to anyone in my cohort and administration for help; their support has been invaluable. I can assure you that by joining the MHCI family, you will become part of a phenomenal growing community and won’t regret it.
To learn more about the University of Pennsylvania’s online Master of Health Care Innovation degree and attend an information session, click here.